In light of recent fines levied against UK betting operators by regulatory authorities, Gambling Minister Chris Philp has argued that reform is “undoubtedly long overdue”.
Ahead of the publication of the White Paper on the 2005 Gambling Act review, which the Minister asserted is due ‘very soon’, Philp spoke at the Gambling Reform Rally yesterday, organised by the Gambling Related Harm APPG (GRH APPG) and Peers for Gambling Reform (PGR).
Referencing the recent £9.4 million fine handed out by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) to 888 Holdings for social responsibility and money laundering failures, Philp stated that there are “too many cases of operators failing to meet their duties to protect people”.
He added: “That is simply not right, and it shouldn’t take the Gambling Commission acting after the event to catch them. It shouldn’t happen in the first place.”
Additionally, he also cited a recent case in which a man was jailed for stealing from his company to fund a gambling habit, and more notably the highly publicised coroners’ report into the death of Jack Ritchie.
Although asserting that he could not reveal any of the key outcomes of the review, Philp reiterated his belief in the importance of greater data usage and the implementation of a Single Customer View.
Philp continued: “One of the things I’ve spoken about previously is the role that technology and data can play in preventing harm from arising, because the big gambling companies have enormous troves of data which they use very effectively for the purposes of cross-selling, and encouraging people to gamble more.
“I think we need to use that data to help protect the public, which means having a regulator that has the powers and capability to get hold of that data and properly analyse it, to understand where bad practices are happening and ensure compliance.”
“There is a new Chair and Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission who were appointed in the middle of last year, who we are working closely with, to try and figure out these changes.”
Prevention of gambling-related harm will be a key focus of the UK’s regulatory authorities following the White Paper, according to Philp – “prevention is a lot better than cure”, he observed.
Additionally, authorities plan on expanding the scope of the British treatment network for problem gambling, with 15 more clinics due to open to complement the existing centres in London and Leeds and the three under development in Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent and Telford.
The SCV, meanwhile, would consist of both data sharing and affordability checks – although Philp had previously outlined that £100 affordability checks would be “unwelcome” at the GambleAware conference last year, it is clear that the measures will play some role in the UK’s new gambling framework.
There will be no over-reliance on self-regulation, Philp asserted, whilst adding that the UK is a ‘free country’ and so, therefore, people have the right to gamble when they want – but that it is the industry and government’s responsibility to ensure this activity does not escalate to become harmful.
“It wouldn’t be appropriate or proportionate to have intrusive checks for someone who is betting relatively small amounts of money on the Grand National,” the Minister added. “But there are definitely levels of more significant gambling losses where proper checks should be done.
“That is the kind of intervention we’re looking at, in a way that is proportionate and balanced. Obviously, there are legitimate customer concerns about privacy that need to be balanced with the imperative to prevent harm. We’re going to make sure that balance is struck in a reasonable way.”
Concluding his speech, Philp stated that “change is needed, and change is coming” on gambling regulation in the UK, whilst maintaining that any reforms made would be balanced, proportionate and evidence-led.